Jerusalem: Rabbi Steven Wernick

When nobody’s happy, you know you did the right thing. Especially if you’re a centrist.
— Rabbi Steven Wernick

This is the fifth installment of a special miniseries responding to the U.S. President's decision on December 6 to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

For this episode, Unsettled producer Ilana Levinson spoke to Rabbi Steven Wernick, CEO of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which serves and represents Conservative congregations across North America. On December 8, USCJ put out a statement applauding the United States’ recognition of Jerusalem.

This episode was recorded on December 12, 2017 and edited by Max Freedman. Original music by Nat Rosenzweig.


Rabbi Steven C. Wernick serves as the Chief Executive Officer of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ), a community of kehillot - sacred communities - committed to a dynamic Judaism that is learned and passionate, authentic and pluralistic, joyful and accessible, egalitarian and traditional. Since joining USCJ in 2009, Rabbi Wernick has spearheaded a top-to-bottom transformation to allow the organization to meet the dramatically changing needs of 21st century congregations. He has shepherded the successful launch of several new initiatives for USCJ congregations, including Sulam Leadership, an integrated set of leadership development resources that includes programs for presidents, emerging leaders, current leaders and officers.  Through partnerships with and grants from outside organizations, he has significantly expanded funding for USY, United Synagogue’s youth group, and has launched major new efforts to help kehillot reach out to young families and to people with disabilities.  Rabbi Wernick was instrumental in the 2016 agreement to create a permanent space for pluralistic and egalitarian prayer at the Kotel (Western Wall), following five years of negotiations.

The son of a rabbi and a Jewish educator, Rabbi Wernick was actively involved in USY and Camp Ramah while growing up in a variety of cities across North America including Oakland, California and Winnipeg, Manitoba in central Canada.  He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, University of Judaism and was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary.  After ordination, he served as the Associate Rabbi of Temple Beth Sholom in Cherry Hill, NJ, and then as the senior rabbi at Adath Israel in suburban Philadelphia.  As rabbi of Adath Israel, Rabbi Wernick took a synagogue that had been withering and, through his vision and energy, turned it into one of that region’s most vibrant.  He still draws on his experiences at Adath Israel, as he works to grow USCJ for the next century.

In 2010 Rabbi Wernick was named one of Newsweek’s 50 Most Influential Rabbis in America and was on The Forward’s 50 List of Influential Jewish Leaders.  He serves on the board of the Friends of the Arava Institute.

Rabbi Wernick is married and the father of three daughters.